Use Storytelling to Create an Engaging Business Presentation

Here’s how you can keep your business audience engaged and attentive with strong storytelling techniques.

A strong business presentation creates an all-around experience to effectively inform your audience and inspires them to take action. To make sure your presentations resonate, make them memorable by using storytelling.

Incorporating elements of storytelling in your presentation can make your messaging even stronger. Research from scientist and entrepreneur Paul Zak revealed that stories built on emotional content help audiences better understand and retain the key points being made. Storytelling can thus bring a topic to life while increasing audience engagement and participation. It can also help those not well-versed in a topic better understand the material.

Use these storytelling techniques to break through to the audience of your next business presentation.

Start With a Narrative

Take your audience by surprise when you first launch your presentation – begin with a story. This will get their attention at the start, and increase the likelihood that you will hold their attention.

A personal story is often most effective, since in addition to pulling the audience in, it can help establish a connection between you and attendees. A connected audience is more likely to pay attention to what you have to say. However, you may determine that a story about someone else or another business makes more sense.

Structure a Powerful Story

The story you tell will help convey your key points, but in order for it to be effective, you need to decide how to weave it throughout your materials.

There are a handful of storytelling structures that have worked throughout time and could easily be applied to your next business presentation:

  • Chronological: Tell the story in the order that events occurred. For example, start with the day you were asked to look into a specific work-related matter, and then build from there.
  • In the midst of the action: Alternatively, you can start your presentation with suspense by beginning with the “action” part of your story. This can be a business crisis or a solution, and you can use it to unfold what led up to this event after.
  • With a plot twist: If there’s a surprise turn to your story, consider building your presentation around it. This approach works well if you started with a wildly different assumption about the problem or the solution and were surprised by what you found. For example, if you thought you discovered that using technology to improve profitability also helped employee retention, you could start with that dramatic moment.

Use Compelling Elements

Regardless of the focal point of your story, be sure you add enough details so that you paint a picture for the audience. Consider key people “characters” in the story, and describe where they are and what they are experiencing. Give specifics that allow audience members to create an image in their minds. For instance, if you choose to focus a story about issues in your company’s manufacturing facility and the employee struggling with an inefficient process, be sure to describe what that person was doing and how they might have been feeling.

All good stories have some element of conflict or tension, so build up the problem or challenge to engage your listeners. Stay true to the facts, but expound on the problem at hand, and don’t give away the solution immediately. Play out several scenarios before describing the final resolution so you can create excitement in your story.

Add to Your Words

Visual elements will help to support your presentation and broaden its appeal. Use these tools carefully, though — images, graphs and other visual additions to your presentation should add to your story, not repeat what you are saying.

Careful choice of the words you weave into stories can help keep your audience engaged. For example, words such as mirror-smooth for smooth or feathery instead of soft can enliven your presentation and keep the audience’s attention.

Also look into the different business presentation technologies available. For instance, an interactive whiteboard can be controlled remotely, giving you the ability to move around the room to better engage with attendees. Research which tools are at your disposal to make your presentation pop even more.

Create a Strong Finish

A few final storytelling acts will help you to finish strong. First, end on a positive note. Even if your message is that everyone will need to do more in the short term due to challenging times ahead, you can set a positive vision. Establish what the greater effort in the present will mean for the future.

Next, give people something to take away from your presentation. This can be a compelling statistic, encouraging mantra or brief inspirational statement. To shape this final note, think of something that people can easily repeat to others. Finish up your story with a call to action.

Business presentations with good storytelling create both immediate engagement and a lasting impact.